WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) today introduced legislation to address a youth unemployment crisis in the United States by creating jobs for 1 million young Americans.
The youth unemployment rate in the United States for 16- to 19-year-olds was 19.6 percent in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The African-American youth unemployment rate is 32.8 percent.
“The most serious crisis facing this country is the lack of decent-paying jobs, particularly when it comes to young Americans,” Sanders said. “If young high school graduates are unable to find entry-level jobs, how will they ever be able to develop the skills, the experience and the confidence they need to break into the job market?” he asked.
“Nearly six million young Americans are neither in school nor working,” said Conyers. “This is a national emergency that demands immediate federal action. By empowering states, local communities, nonprofits, and small businesses to train and hire young Americans, this legislation will restore financial security, productivity, and dignity. Our economy and society are strongest when our young people enjoy decent opportunity.”
Sanders and Conyers emphasized that youth unemployment has long-term consequences. People who experience early bouts of unemployment make 10 to 15 percent lower wages than their peers and so-called “wage scars” may last up to 20 years.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is a cosponsor of the Senate bill. “High unemployment hits our communities and families hard, and it is particularly devastating for teens and young adults who are denied the opportunity to get the basic job skills they need to go on to college and get a good paying job,” she said. “This legislation is an investment in our young adults who just need the chance to prove themselves and get ahead.”
In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).
The measures would provide $5.5 billion for states and local governments to employ 1 million youth from 16 to 24 years old. The U.S. Department of Labor would provide $4 billion in grants to provide summer and year round employment opportunities for low-income youth and another $1.5 billion in competitive grants for work-based training. The legislation also would provide job training for hundreds of thousands of young Americans.
The legislation was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, UAW, the United Steelworkers of America, Campaign for America’s Future, and the National Employment Law Project.